I worry about us.
Now that the battle that we call elections is over, I find myself not so disappointed in the election results — but more in my social networks.
We shake our heads and get mad at how polarized our congress is, but they are our representatives — and we mere mortals are just as polarized.
We believe something strongly and elevate potential candidates that exemplify those attitudes the most, so we naturally end up with mostly polarized candidates, which makes both parties appear reprehensible to those from the other side. And as dangerous as that is to the goal of “compromise”, it isn’t what concerns me most.
Some of the language and attitudes seen in facebook posts will be hard to take back. Its one thing to offer your opinion on an issue, its another to make disparaging remarks about “those republicrats” (morphed). Remember, most of us have friends on both sides of the political aisles. If I am on the other side of the aisle from you, are those words what you really think of me?
We teach our kids to be cautious of social media, particularly because most people don’t have the same censor/filters that they would have in-person. Teens send text’s that they almost assuredly wouldn’t speak in person. Adults are just as quick to send flamatory emails, forward jokes that they wouldn’t dare say at the watercooler, and post things that they would (hopefully) reconsider at least their phrasing and show some level of respect for listeners that may not share their perspective. We seem to forget about those taboo topics that we are “smart enough” to not bring up in most mixed in-person settings (politics, religion, sexuality, etc.) when it comes to social networks.
We hopefully teach our kids that what goes on the Internet lives forever, and that words are hard to take back – and then, we adults discard all of that advice in our our social networks. Should we be timid and not use social media for constructive debate, of course not. But just like the ugly political ads that most of us don’t care for, shouldn’t we focus on the issues and not belittling the people of the other viewpoint?
I worry about us, not because of who is sitting behind the big desk or other elected post, but because of the unrealistic “win-all/lose-all” extreme viewpoints that the vocal minorities have laid over us — when I would hope that most descent people want a majority of the same things, but with different ideas of how to get there.
The next time that you want to post something on a social network about “those republicrats” (or about any other group across a divisive issue), ask yourself whether you would use the same words in person to a friend who had the other point of view. And when you are exasperated by our polarized elected officials, check for a polarized representative in the mirror.